Buying Guide

Garlic comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and names. Here are some helpful tips to determine the type of garlic and quantity to purchase depending on your intended use.

Garlic size matters depending on the intended use

When shopping for garlic, you may come across many different names for bulb sizes...that's because there is no universal sizing chart for garlic! What may be "small" to some could be "large" for another and everything in between.

Generally, you will find that smaller bulbs (and therefore smaller cloves) are intended solely for consumption. You may hear the terms "culinary", "eating", or "table" garlic for this category. This is because, when planted, smaller cloves tend to produce smaller bulbs and are not as appealing for seed stock. However, when planted in favorable conditions and allowed to acclimate to a soil type over several years, small bulbs may eventually size up into larger bulbs. Flavor is not generally impacted by size, but smaller bulbs of certain varieties do have the added advantage of storing for a longer period of time versus larger bulbs.

On the flip side, larger bulbs are often referred to as "seed". Seed stock can be grown to produce more seed stock as well as eaten right away. The same logic follows that larger cloves will produce larger bulbs when planted. It is important to note that although some varieties of garlic have uniformly sized cloves throughout the bulb, others have vastly different sized cloves in the same bulb. This means that a seed stock bulb could still contain a small clove that is better suited for eating rather than planting. The good news is that, big or small, gourmet garlic is going to taste great!

Talk about bang for your buck! If you plant the cloves from one garlic bulb you may get anywhere from four to twelve new garlic bulbs from it depending on the variety you planted. There are many variables that determine how many pounds of garlic are needed to fill a given area including spacing between plants and the type of garlic. The table below gives a rough estimate for the number of cloves in one pound of each hardneck garlic type. For smaller culinary garlic, one pound usually contains anywhere from 7-10 bulbs depending on the variety. The Garlic Store defaults to half pound quantities so take care to order a quantity of two if you would like a full pound.

Garlic Type Number of cloves per pound
Porcelain 35 - 40
Rocambole 64 - 80
Standard Purple Stripe 80 - 96
Marbled Purple Stripe 48 - 64
Glazed Purple Stripe 48 - 64

 

By now you may be recognizing a theme...garlic tends to adapt to the conditions around it. Flavor profiles are no exception. One reason it is particularly difficult to pin down the way a certain garlic variety tastes is because much of the flavor is derived from the soil in which it is grown. A study from 2009 found that soil sulfur and manganese levels were correlated with bulb sulfur and manganese content. Sulfur compounds in garlic play a major role in determining the flavor profile. Also, garlic can develop added dimensions of flavor when roasted, minced, sautéed, etc...but that is another post for another time! You can find detailed descriptions on flavor and cooking uses for each garlic variety in the Garlic Store.